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Happy Haynes raised and spent big money in final days of Denver school board campaign

Allegra "Happy" Haynes with Mayor Michael Hancock earlier this year. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post)
Allegra "Happy" Haynes with Mayor Michael Hancock earlier this year. (Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post)

Last-minute donations continued to flood the campaign coffers of Allegra “Happy” Haynes up until Election Day, when the incumbent Denver Public Schools board member narrowly defeated an upstart challenger by just over 900 votes, the latest campaign finance reports show.

While contributions to other DPS candidates slowed to a trickle in the week before the election, Haynes continued an eleventh-hour push to fend off opponent Robert Speth, a relative unknown who entered the at-large school board race late but proved to be a formidable contender.

Haynes, a well-known Denver political figure and head of the city’s parks and recreation department, raised $32,325 between Oct. 26 and the election on Nov. 3. Speth, a father of two who works in the telecommunications industry, raised just $4,485 during that period.

In total, over the course of the campaign, Haynes raised nearly twice as much as Speth.

Haynes’s campaign benefitted from sizable contributions made by notable donors. Billionaire former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, who oversaw more than a decade of aggressive school reforms in New York, donated $5,000 on Oct. 29.

Billionaire Fort Collins heiress Pat Stryker gave $5,000 on Oct. 28. The biggest donation came from David Scanavino, a doctor and healthcare executive who is a founding board member of University Prep charter school in Denver. Scanavino gave $8,000 on Oct. 27.

Follow the Money
See all donations to the six DPS board candidates here.Between Oct. 26 and Nov. 28 — the time period covered in the candidates’ final fundraising and spending reports, which were due Thursday — Haynes also spent far more money than Speth.

Haynes’ spending totaled $54,845 and included $13,365 for robocalls, $9,523 for mailers and $2,000 for a fundraising consultant. Speth spent $10,802, mostly on a mailer and digital ads.

Haynes’ last-minute campaigning may have made a difference. Thirty-six percent of the 124,117 ballots cast were cast on Election Day, according to the Denver Elections Division.

The candidates weren’t the only ones who raised and spent money in the election, however. Committees and organizations not officially affiliated with the candidates spent a substantial amount as well, but that money is more difficult — and in some cases impossible — to track.

In all, six candidates were running for three seats on the seven-member DPS school board. Here’s a look at their fundraising and spending:

Lisa Flores (District 5) — Raised $116,719 for the whole campaign. Spent $116,544.

Michael Kiley (District 5) — Raised $112,104. Spent $104,277.

Throughout the campaign, Flores benefitted from a vast network of small donors as well as from large donations made by national and local backers of DPS’s brand of education reform, which includes cultivating a mix of charter and traditional schools and closing schools with consistently low performance. Flores, a former senior program officer with the Denver-based Gates Family Foundation, largely supports the direction of the school district.

Kiley, meanwhile, was critical of the district’s strategies and campaigned on a promise to seek a new vision for DPS — one that involved traditional schools with plenty of extracurricular activities, “professional teachers” and set boundaries instead of lotteries for getting in. He was endorsed by the Denver Classroom Teachers Association and he received 75 percent of his campaign funding — $84,000 — from the union’s small donor committee.

On Election Day, Flores bested Kiley with 53 percent of the vote.

Anne Rowe (District 1) — Raised $26,212 and had $15,913 on hand from her last campaign in 2011 (Rowe was an incumbent) for a total of $42,125. Spent $34,502.

Kristi Butkovich (District 1) — Raised $30,299, plus $3,300 in loans, for a total of $33,599. Spent $33,496.

Rowe, who was elected president of the DPS board on Tuesday, also strongly supports the direction of the district. She too received donations from reform proponents.

Butkovich was endorsed by the DCTA. The union’s small donor committee contributed $21,500 to her campaign, which represented more than 60 percent of her total fundraising.

Rowe won with 62 percent of the vote.

Allegra “Happy” Haynes (At Large) — Raised $120,725 and had $2,804 on hand from 2011 (Haynes was also an incumbent) for a total of $123,529. Spent $122,464.

Robert Speth (At Large) — Raised $66,881. Spent $66,711.

A similar narrative played out in the at-large race. Whereas Haynes was backed by the reformers, Speth was endorsed by the DCTA and received $40,000 from the union’s small donor committee, which represented 60 percent of the total amount of money he raised.

The difference in the at-large race was the timing of the fundraising. Most candidates, including Speth, raised the majority of their money before October. Haynes, however, raised 86 percent of her money between Oct. 9 and Election Day, as Speth’s campaign gained steam.

In the end, Haynes won with 50.4 percent of the vote.

The total amount of money raised by all six candidates this year was $476,240. That’s far less than was raised by the nine candidates vying for four open seats in the last DPS board election in 2013. That year, the candidates raised a combined total of $817,509.

In 2011, when nine candidates, including Haynes and Rowe, competed for three seats on the board, the overall fundraising total was $845,556.

The reporting deadlines for committees and organizations are different than the deadlines for candidates. The last report the groups were required to file covered spending through the end of September. The next filing deadline is in mid-January, which means that their spending in the crucial last month of the campaign will be a mystery until then.

Raising Colorado, a committee affiliated with Democrats for Education Reform, spent about $90,000 in support of Flores and Rowe through the end of September. All of the money raised by the committee at that point came from a group called Education Reform Now Advocacy.

New York-based Education Reform Now is a so-called C4 group. Those types of groups don’t have to publicly report their contributions or spending as long as their ads don’t explicitly direct voters to vote for or against a candidate.

Editor’s note: Chalkbeat Colorado receives financial support from the Gates Family Foundation.

DPS board president Anne Rowe is married to Frank Rowe, Chalkbeat’s director of sponsorships. Frank Rowe’s position is not part of Chalkbeat’s news operation.

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